Edition #121: Thirty Pieces of Unsolicited Advice
Plus, a cake ranking, a case for hip hop music, and some things to make you laugh
A Note From the Editor
I’ve called myself thirty for the past three years—not aloud, but in my head and in my journals. “I’m practically thirty,” I’ve said since 2019, as though the anticipation of such a milestone would soften its blow. In a way it worked, for I turn thirty years old this Sunday and much to my shock and delight, I have not an ounce of apprehension about it. I don’t need to tell you that thirty carries the weight of a lifetime of expectations, treated as a societal checkpoint to gauge whether one is on track to become a “contributing” member of the collective. I was always the youngest in my group of friends growing up, so I’ve spent the past few years observing what this birthday does to people, women in particular. The more stringent of my friends spend their late 20’s listing off everything they needed to happen by the magical age of thirty—a six-figure job, a long-term partner, an aesthetically pleasing apartment in a cool neighborhood—while other friends hunt for long-term stability by way of home ownership, marriage, and partnerhood. If girls used to dream of their wedding day in excruciating detail, it seems to me that such a vision has been replaced by a slightly altered, albeit similarly pressed, one: what will my life look like when I am thirty?
I’ve spent the past week attempting to recap what I wanted my life to look like at this age in the years when thirty was but a vague, distant landmark and I’ve mostly drawn a blank. This strikes me as odd, being that I spent most of my 20’s creating lists and fastidiously checking off goals. The closest I came to a glimpse at my imagined future self was the woman described in this essay, in which my 22-year-old self imagined what my 32-year-old self would be like. I probably don’t need to tell you that I no longer aspire to 4 kids, a large “elephant colored” Mercedes, or a “fat rock” on my finger in two years time—or ever. I would bet that if I surveyed my friends, those who have since turned thirty, about the things they thought they wanted when they were in their early 20’s compared to what they want today, there would be an equally vast delta in those desires.
I’ve come to think of this as the true nature of growing up; not fixating on an unchanging vision of the desired future, but accepting that you will constantly evolve and transform and, as a result, your ideal version of the future will, too. The late Hunter S. Thompson, writer and philosopher, said it best, “As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day?”
Conventional wisdom says we need SMART goals with time stamps; that we need to envision the future often and pretend like we already have the things we want to trick our minds into manifesting them. Though I used to buy into this approach wholeheartedly, my philosophy on such things has evolved in recent years, for I’ve spent countless hours journaling, goal setting, trying to anticipate and calculate so that I could come out “on top”, whatever that means, and mostly, it has only caused tension. I prefer to take a more balanced approach these days—staying grounded in the present, periodically reassessing the ways in which I spend my time and creative energy to determine whether the things I’m doing feel in line with the sort of life I want in the longer term, and letting go of my false sense of control so that the Universe has a chance to surprise me. The surrendering of control is a new thing for me and it’s been revelatory; for every time I release my stronghold on the way I think things are supposed to go, they turn out even better than I expected.
I’ve always had the intuitive feeling that if I can keep my mental health in check, I will live a long life. As I enter the final days of my 20’s and embark on a journey in which, this time, I enthusiastically accept as unknowable, I have only two goals for my future self: to be able to do a backbend at 80-years-old and to tell someone I love them first, without crying, at some point during this next decade. And while my approach to goal setting has changed, my propensity to dole out unsolicited advice has not. As such, I bring you my favorite annual newsletter tradition; thirty pieces of unsolicited advice I’ve gathered over the course of the last year. Happy early birthday to me and to my birthday twin, Beyoncé.
Thirty Pieces of Unsolicited Advice
Master the art of a 15-minute power nap; the perfect amount of time to feel refreshed without grog. Try taking your nap on the floor, it’ll make it easier to get yourself up when you’re supposed to.
Always frame leaving a job as a pursuit of a dream—even if your dream is simply to no longer work at that job. People are much more receptive to the pursuit of a dream and no one will try to talk you out of it.
Three things you should always do when traveling to a new country: take a cooking class, do karaoke, and volunteer. The cooking class should be done at the start of the trip, for you’ll likely make something you will eat often in the country, and learning to make it will allow you to appreciate it more. Plus, you can get local recommendations from your cooking instructor.
On that note, make a playlist every time you travel, especially to a foreign country. Add songs you hear during your trip, whether it be during karaoke, on the radio, at bars and restaurants, etc. This is a favorite song I discovered at a karaoke bar in Paris, and this one is from Lisbon.
Keep a pair of tongs at home, even if you don’t use them for cooking. They’re great as an arm-extender if you’re short or have several places in your home you can’t reach.
Budding love, red sauce, evening walks—most things are better when done slowly. Try not to rush so often. In the wise words of André De Shields, slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to go.
Start your day with breathwork—I like this 11-minute Wim Hoff video. Do it first thing in the morning while lying in bed and after the video is over, go straight into meditating for 10 minutes. Breathwork is a great way to tap into the deeper, more concealed parts of your psyche and to train your body to remain calm during moments of stress.
When possible, leave the country for a whole month. Stay in one place for the entirety of the month—meet locals, find your favorite coffee shop, eat local, seasonal produce. It’s a great way to reset or get out of a funk and to remember there are alternative ways to live.
Revisit the romantic playlists you’ve made for past lovers, add new songs to the mix, and soon, you’ll rewrite the memories of those old tracks—and you’ll remember that you have superb taste in music.
Talk to strangers more often. On the airplane, on the street, at a restaurant. Talk to strangers with no ulterior motives or expectations, but just because meeting new people keeps things interesting. On that note, try to walk around with your headphones plugged in less often.
Always be specific—in writing, in language, in communication. Ultra-specific moments are often the most universal. “Something for everyone” appeals to no one; the most interesting people and stories are those filled with nuance.
Buy yourself a cake, slice it up, and stick it in the freezer, that way when you want a piece of cake, all you have to do is defrost a slice or two, and enjoy. Life calls for cake more often than we’d like to think.
Before deciding to download the latest social media app, ask yourself: is this something I’m willing to spend 30 minutes per day, or three hours per week, on? There will always be new social media apps, and eventually, we will all get those old, irrelevant people without the latest apps. The best we can do now is consciously decide whether we want to spend more time on said apps—especially on the front end before we’re addicted to them.
Spring for TSA precheck, even CLEAR if you don’t mind giving up your biometric data (they have it anyway, thanks Apple!). And if you travel often, consider getting a credit card with airport lounge access. These small luxuries make flying vastly more enjoyable.
Practice being more like the wise old owl.
If you make a decision—say, to leave the country for a period of time or to meet someone for a date—and you feel inexplicably terrified beforehand, it’s probably a sign from your body that your life is about to be altered in some way. Don’t cancel the thing because of this feeling, go through with it. And notice, afterward, whether that initial feeling was indicative of a shift within you. Remember the results of this experiment and use them as leverage next time you get that nervous, something's-going-to-change feeling.
Continue to find the skincare products you live and die by. Not everything on your shelf needs to be the most expensive version of a product, either. Mix up high and low so you’re not stuck spending hundreds of dollars every time you run out of a few things. I love this affordable serum, which transformed my skin into a glowy, hydrated paradise, and these pads for breakouts and brightening
Get into the habit of trusting yourself. A simple way to do this is by stopping yourself before verbalizing doubts to others, i.e. “But is this how I feel, or is it just XYZ,” or “but do I hate this job or am I just being lazy?” Those spoken sentiments are often signs that you need reassurance for something you already know; learn to recognize when you need reassurance from others and simply ask for it instead of forming a habit of expressing self-doubt—doing so makes it hard to trust your instincts.
This might sound excessively simple, but remember when you’re going through something difficult—heartbreak, self-image issues, etc.—that you can always use Google to discover ways to cope with the experience. Here’s an exercise I recently discovered using this method. It was supremely helpful.
Try out phone-free Sunday. It’s simpler than it sounds: tell your friends and loved ones you’re doing phone-free Sunday, turn off your phone Saturday night and turn it back on Sunday night. You’ll be surprised to discover the shape life takes without the guidance of your tiny handheld computer
Invite people over for dinner more often. It’s fun to mix up different groups of people and to make ordinary days feel special. If you don’t feel like cooking, you can easily make it a potluck—you make a main, and everyone brings sides/dessert/wine.
If you find yourself procrastinating a bit of work you need to do tonight in favor of doing it tomorrow morning, force yourself to work for a set, short period of time, 30 minutes to an hour. You’ll never regret it, especially if it means you get to start the next morning fresh, without the burning of to-do tasks looming on your brain
The more hesitant you are to have a difficult conversation, the more you need to have a conversation. Build a habit of having such conversations within a shorter window of time and face them with bravery. You will never regret the practice of honest, vulnerable communication, and your relationships will be better off for it.
Order a deck of these cards and pull them out at a dinner party—you’ll be surprised by how much you can learn about your guests, and what sort of interesting conversations will come up.
Whatever you are wanting to do, just start. Start right now, even if you don’t feel ready, even if it’s just for the minutes. In the wise words of Emerson, “nobody expects the days to be gods.” There is no perfect day to get something started.
When apologizing for something, don’t expect the person you apologize to bounce back within the same conversation. Often when we say sorry, we want the person to reassure us that they are OK straight away—they might not be! Give people time to feel their feelings. Apologize because you’re sorry, not because you need reassurance that you’re forgiven, and trust that things will come to a natural place of peace afterward.
When loved ones share an important date with you—a big test, a move, etc.—mark it in your iPhone calendar right away so that you’ll remember to reach out to them on their big day. These small kindnesses go a long way!
Read the comments on YouTube videos, especially on songs you like. They are a strange and endlessly entertaining section of the internet.
Order this neck pillow for the airplane. It is far, far superior to others!
When ordering a drink at a nice cocktail bar, always let the waiter or bartender surprise you. You’ll be delighted by what they choose—it’s especially fun to ask them why they picked it—and you might be surprised at the drinks you end up enjoying.
Cheers my dears and as always, thank you for reading! This week is a perfect time to buy me a birthday gift—AKA opt for a paid subscription of this newsletter!
Or, equally appreciated, you could share this edition with someone you love (directly, via text or email) and tell them they should subscribe to this newsletter. “I love this newsletter, you should subscribe!”—just copy and paste and there you have it. Getting new readers keeps me motivated and encouraged. It means a lot to me!
Perhaps You Should… Embrace Cake
I have strong opinions about a few very trivial things, one of them being the age-old ”I’m not a sweets person” proclamation—often claimed by those who will reach for a spoon the moment the communal dessert hits the table (“I just a taste!”). I stringently believe everyone is a sweets person because sugar is addictive and delightful. I love sweet and salty foods—I love it all—and that means I genuinely look forward to seeing what birthday cake I’ll get each year. I also love ranking things, so here are the top three birthday cakes you should try: this one from Milk Bar (trust me, no classic birthday cake will ever stand up to it), this one from Whole Foods (it’s light and airy and I once ate half of an entire cake in one sitting) and this one we always had growing up (for nostalgia’s sake and for the chocolate crunchies). Last year, my friends ordered me a strawberry almond cake from this baker, which was superb.
**Bonus Content** (Petition to Stop House Music)
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A Quote From A Book You Should Read:
“This was love, to be eager for tomorrow.”
-Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This newsletter is best served with a side of conversation, so drop your opinions, reflections, and thoughts in the comments below and let’s get to talking.
Or, share the most thought-provoking piece from today’s edition with someone you love, then call them up to discuss, debate, and percolate. As a wise woman once said, “Great minds discuss ideas.